Segments in this Video

Summary of Hume's Life and Career (03:06)


Hume is often regarded as the greatest philosopher to write in the English language. Along with Boswell and Adam Smith, he represented the Scottish Enlightenment.

Hume on Causality (03:44)

We see one event follow another repeatedly and infer "properties" or "causal connections," but have no actual knowledge of these things.

Problem of Causality (02:05)

We never observe a causing b; we only observe a, followed by b. Yet causal connection is central to our conception of an ordered world. It is circular to assume a world of cause and effect in order to prove that a causes b.

Hume on the Self (02:43)

We never experience the self, only individual thoughts and feelings, Hume believed we become confused by a pattern of thoughts and feelings. The flaw in Hume's argument is that it requires a "we" to be confused.

Science and Moral Philosophy (01:37)

Hume sought to make moral philosophy more scientific.

Theory of Meaning (02:01)

Hume thought a meaningful word must represent an idea derived from experience; meaning is based on experience. Much of the language we use is meaningless.

Hume's Fork (00:58)

Hume was concerned with the division of "relations of ideas" from "matters of fact and real existence". One of his contributions was to clear away ideas that did not meet these criteria.

Limits to Skepticism (01:22)

Hume showed that we cannot prove many things that we take for granted. He held that nobody can be a complete skeptic, but mitigated skepticism is useful in preventing people from falling into large ideologies.

Skepticism of Reason (01:49)

Hume's skepticism isn't really about the world, but about the capacity of human reason. He believed "common sense" views of the world were correct; we cannot prove them, but must act on the assumption that they are true.

Human Focus (01:25)

For Hume, what really matters are human beings. Many philosophers care more about abstractions such as time and space.

Connection Between Philosophy and Other Writings (02:31)

Hume saw his other writings as continuation of his philosophical work. The word philosophy used to have a broader meaning. He saw his philosophical work as preliminary to considerations of morality and politics.

Hume on Human Nature (01:52)

Locke sought to overthrow original sin with his idea of a tabula rasa. Hume, in contrast, believed in constant human nature, though constant tendencies took different forms in different societies.

Basis of Constant Human Nature (01:34)

Hume's deep learning in classical writings led him to conclude that human nature was the same at the time he was reading about as in his time. Cicero influenced him.

Hume's Modernity (00:54)

Hume's concern with the self is familiar to today's students of psychology, and his concern with causality is familiar to students of quantum physics. He influenced logical positivism.

Problem of Induction (03:09)

Though we see something happen repeatedly, we cannot prove it will continue. There is no logical link between scientific laws and the observations on which they rest. The discovery of the black swan is an illustration.

Scientific "Laws" as Hypothetical (00:35)

Some say Einstein didn't overthrow Newton, but just produced a more general theory; in fact, he proved some of Newton to be incorrect. Scientists increasingly recognize that their conclusions are hypothetical.

Philosophy in Hume's Wake (01:09)

Bertrand Russell wrote that we have not yet solved many of the problems Hume presented. Any subsequent philosopher has to face Hume, but none have gotten beyond him in many ways.

Hume's Character (01:40)

He could be vain, but was never malicious. He was timid at times due to unorthodox theology, but had personal courage. He attained his own ideal of equanimity.

Influence of Hume's Style (00:55)

Hume emphasized clarity, setting a pattern for British philosophy which also included avoiding large assumptions.

What Views are Reasonable (01:20)

Hume's approach raises a difficulty: since we cannot prove much of what we take for granted, how can we distinguish between views that are reasonable to hold and those that are not?

Hume and Imagination (02:26)

Hume is disconcerting to those who think of science as consisting of demonstrated certainties. Scientific work involves imagination, rather than following directly from observation.

Hume and Kant (02:15)

Seeing that Hume's skepticism could not be refuted using empiricist assumptions, Kant held instead that the mind contains ideas like cause and effect and imposes them on experience, rather than just perceiving isolated events.

Credits: Hume (00:46)

Credits: Hume

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The leading philosopher of the Scottish Enlightenment, David Hume, is the subject of this program. In it, world-renowned author and professor Bryan Magee and expert John Passmore of the National Australian University discuss causality as the cornerstone of Hume’s philosophy. Also discussed are three of Hume’s basic philosophical views: anything that is not a fact, is illusion; judgments on fact must be based on concrete experience; and all knowledge is imperfect. Hume also denies the idea of a continuous identical self, refutes deism, and views reason as a slave to passion. A BBC Production. Part of the series Great Philosophers. (44 minutes)

Length: 43 minutes

Item#: BVL7285

ISBN: 978-1-4213-8714-7

Copyright date: ©1987

Closed Captioned

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